India close to clinching third Test and series in New Zealand (Roundup)

April 6th, 2009 - 3:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Ross Taylor Wellington, April 6 (IANS) India were six wickets away from a crushing victory in the third and final cricket Test against the Kiwis at Basin Reserve here Monday and clinching a series win in New Zealand after a gap of 41 years.
Only rain can bail New Zealand out with a draw as they totter at 167 for four at stumps on the fourth day Monday, chasing an improbable victory target of 617 runs. Ross Taylor (69) and James Franklin (26) were keeping the hosts alive with a 83-run stand. But it will be a difficult task for them to save the Test as New Zealand trail by 450 runs with six wickets in hand.

The forecast for the fifth and final day is cloudy. Conditions were overcast throughout Monday and forced early stumps, almost an hour before the scheduled close of play.

Rain or no rain, India have done enough to make sure that they record their first series win in New Zealand since Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi led them to 3-1 victory in 1968. India won the first Test in Hamilton by 10 wickets and drew the second Test in Napier.

India, resuming at overnight 349 for five, declared their second innings at 434 for seven before lunch, setting New Zealand a record winning total. This is the biggest victory margin India have set, bettering 516 against Australia they set at Mohali last year.

Only two teams — England and West Indies– have been able to escape with a draw after being set a target of over 600 runs.

The highlight of the day was Rahul Dravid breaking Mark Waugh’s (181) record of most catches by a fielder. Dravid’s 182nd catch came in his 134th Test while Waugh took 128 Tests to grab 181 catches in a career spanning 11 years (1991-2002).

Dravid, who caught up with Waugh when he snapped up Chris Martin in the New Zealand first innings of the first Test at Hamilton, had opportunities to have the record but dropped a couple of difficult catches.

It came off the bowling of Zaheer Khan, who bowled a beauty to force Tim McIntosh edge to the third slip where Dravid dived low to his left for a brilliant take.

Zaheer, who took five wickets in the New Zeleand’s first innings of 197, came back to rattle the stumps of Daniel Flynn.

Harbhajan Singh then removed Martin Guptill (49) and dangerous Jesse Ryder in the same over to leave New Zealand at 84 for four.

Guptill was out lbw while trying to defend a Harbhajan delivery. Ryder was caught at slip by Dravid - his 183rd catch.

Earlier, resuming at an overnight lead of 531 runs, India rattled up another 85 runs in 18.1 overs to bat the hosts out of the contest. Indian Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (56) called off the innings after scoring his 16th 50, with Zaheer Khan on 18. Yuvraj Singh scored 40.

Yuvraj picked on medium-pacer Iain O’Brien, hitting him for three fours and a six in one over and raced to 40 from 46 balls before being caught at first slip by Taylor off Chris Martin.

Three balls later, Martin had Harbhajan Singh top-edging a pull to Tim Southee who at fine leg juggled with the ball before finally catching it.

Dhoni reached his fifty off 77 balls with seven fours.

Martin claimed three for 70 for a match analysis of seven for 168 and joined Danny Morrison in fourth highest New Zealand wicket takers with 153 scalps in 47 Tests, behind Sir Richard Hadlee (431), Daniel Vettori (292) and Chris Cairns (218).

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